Miss the feel of classic audio kit? Tivoli Songbook and Songbook Max bring retro knobs and sliders to modern Bluetooth speakers and DAB radios

Tivoli Songbook
(Image credit: Tivoli)

One of the things a lot of modern audio kit lacks is touchability: as lovely as it is to get amazing sound from a system, it's just a bit less fun when there aren't sliders to slide, knobs to rotate and switches to flick. So I'm intrigued by the new Tivoli Songbook and Songbook Max, two portable Bluetooth speakers with lots of touchability and some unusual audio features too.

The Songbooks were inspired by hardware of the 1970s and 1990s, and are an evolution of the firm's previous Songbook radio that was discontinued over a decade ago. They're both designed to be portable, and they're certainly striking looking: the green version looks like it was torn from a US Army Jeep, while the cream color option looks like it should be sat next to one of those 70s drinks trolleys with a half-globe on top of it. But don't let the retro looks fool you, these are thoroughly modern devices.

Tivoli Songbook and Songbook Max: key features and specs

Tivoli Songbook MAX

(Image credit: Tivoli)

The Songbook comes with a 3.5-inch full-range driver, a 3.5-inch woofer and twin 40-watt amps, so it's capable of some serious volume. At 6.7lbs it's lighter than it looks, and it's also a lot lighter than its larger sibling. That model, the Songbook Max, comes in at 11.5lbs so it's more transportable than portable. But the payoff is that you get a 4-inch subwoofer, a 4-inch mid-range, a 3/4-inch tweeter and twin 50W amps for even more sound power.

The Bluetooth here is 5.3 and there's an unusual extra input option here: the quarter-inch/6.35mm aux input has a pre-amp, which means you can plug in a guitar or other instrument and use the Songbook as an amp. If you go for the Max your audio choices also include built in FM and DAB+ radios – making it a contender for our best DAB radios on connectivity options alone. Battery life is a claimed 10 hours and you can fast charge via USB-C at up to 15V.

I really like the look of these speakers: there's something immensely likeable about their faces, and I'm a sucker for a set of EQ sliders and some good clicky switches. And given Tivoli's track record these will no doubt sound just as good as they look.

The Tivoli Audio Songbook has a RRP of £429, and the Songbook MAX is £599. Both models are available now from Tivoli and from the usual retailers; Tivoli is currently offering 10% off to new newsletter subscribers. 

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.